Tempt Me at Twilight
Once in awhile, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale. And this is the heart of Tempt Me at Twilight. Poppy Hathaway wants a commonplace, gentle life in the countryside, yet she finds herself in a marriage to a driven man and living in a hotel in London. How is she to reconcile her dreams with her reality? How is she to find love and forge a new beginning with what life has handed to her?
Amelia, Beatrice, and Poppy Hathaway together with Amelia’s husband, Cam Rohan, are staying at the Rutledge Hotel for the London season. This is their third time at the hotel, but they’ve never set eyes on the elusive owner of the hotel, Harry Rutledge. He runs the hotel like a despotic ruler, fair but ruthless and efficient. The loyalty of his staff is unquestioned and they zealously protect his privacy.
One day, in desperate pursuit of Beatrice’s pet ferret, Poppy wanders unchaperoned into a short, hidden passageway leading off the business offices. There, she’s caught up in a brutal grip, her neck wrenched sharply to the side.
“You should know,” came a low, chilling voice close to her ear, “that with a jut a bit more pressure than this, I could snap your neck. Tell me your name and what you’re doing in here.”
And this is how Poppy meets Harry. Eventually, Harry relents and leads her into his extremely private curiosities room. Her expert knowledge about various objects in his collection utterly fascinates him as does her beauty; and for the first time, he badly wants a woman in his life. They meet again, when Poppy and animal-whisperer, Beatrice, rescue a foreign delegation’s prize macaque from the dumbwaiter. And Harry’s fascination with Poppy increases.
However, he is aware that the love of Poppy’s life is Michael Bayning, the scion of an upright and uptight peer. Bayning has been holding off paying his addresses to Poppy, because he keeps saying that he’s seeking an appropriate time to broach the topic of marriage to Poppy with his father. His father disapproves of the Hathaways and Bayning is a dutiful son. Eventually, we bows to his father’s decree and rejects Poppy.
Harry pounces on heartbroken Poppy and starts courting her. When they’re caught kissing on the terrace at a ball and are forced to marry, Harry gloats in private over his success in getting exactly what he wants: her! Being attracted to Harry and facing ostracization by the ton if she doesn’t marry him, Poppy bows to the inevitable, despite her family’s outrage at Harry for what they recognize was a deliberate action.
However, as she’s waiting to walk down the aisle at her wedding, a distraught Bayning rushes in to blurt out the truth to Poppy that Harry had engineered his father’s vehement refusal to allow their marriage. Poppy is horrified and is faced with a dilemma.
A lifetime with a man I can never trust. To marry a villain, or never to marry at all. To be Harry Rutledge’s wife, or to be an object of disgrace and to be propositioned by men who thought she was immoral or desperate.
Poppy chooses to keep her word, but warns Harry that she will never love him and will never forget that he took away the man she loved and put himself in his place. Harry confidently assures her that he still wants to marry her because he never wanted to be loved in the first place and no one has ever done so yet.
With this beginning, how are they to build their relationship into trust and into love?
Ms. Kleypas sets up the two protagonists as coming from opposite ends of the love-relationship spectrum. Poppy has been brought up in an environment full of affection and care, where her wants and needs have been safeguarded. Harry was brought up in deprivation, where no one cared for him. Poppy had parents and siblings who loved her; while Harry’s mother abandoned him and his father neglected him, to the point of locking up a five-year-old for two days in his room without food. (My heart stuttered at that and I started rooting for Harry unabashedly thence onwards.) Poppy is engaging, happy, and friendly, while Harry is taciturn, driven, and reclusive. Out of such disparity, Ms. Kleypas builds a believable HEA.
I had some quibbles about the over-familiarity between Harry and his employees, such as the housekeeper, chef, and assistant. However, I bought into it because of how deftly Ms. Kleypas wrote those characters, Poppy’s interactions with them, and their concerns and actions respecting her.
I found myself impatient with the plot device whereby Harry and Poppy are forced to marry. Clearly, Poppy did not get the memo that young, unmarried ladies should never go off with men they’re not related to onto darkened terraces at balls. Surely, there are other ways that compel a hero and heroine into a marriage of convenience other than being discovered in a compromising position by members of the ton? That aside, the marriage-of-convenience trope is handled well.
I went back and forth on the grade quite a bit as I was reading the book. On one hand, the story is tender and caring and hopeful; on the other, parts of it are too predictable and Poppy can be immature – but the romance succeeds despite her. Ms. Kleypas’s writing is very good – you can tell, you’re in the hands of an experienced writer. Eventually, I settled on a B. The Hathaway series is really strong overall, and Tempt Me at Twilight is a good addition to it.